The Story of a Robe

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My earliest memory is of my mom chowing down on my toes while changing my diaper. So now I smother Fox’s feet in kisses when I change his. On Sundays she would bake me biscuits from scratch and smother them in honey – I can’t wait to start a weekend breakfast tradition for my own family (once Fox is on solids). But etched forever into my memory of childhood is my mom’s blue robe. I remember cuddling in that space between sleep and awake, hypnotized by the terry cloth texture of that robe during our nap time together. That blue robe was the uniform for unconditional love. The kind of love I want to blanket my own baby in.

So I have this pink Canyon Group chenille robe with red lips. It’s super weighted, cozy, and warm but it doesn’t quite fit the badass post-apocalyptic aesthetic I’m going for (well, except that Brad Pitt, who we can all agree is pretty badass, rocks the coffee mug Canyon Group robe in Fight Club). Within the last year I’ve attempted to give it to Goodwill but it never quite made it to the ongoing “donate” pile I have stashed in the back of my closet. I’m glad because I found extra comfort in it while laboring with Fox … and then again after a particularly rough middle-of-the-night new mom meltdown last week. A meltdown in which I found myself crying in a bath with lavender oil, Epsom salts, and desperation – hoping that I could get my shit together before the next feeding. I was feeling anything but a warrior momma. So I crawled back into bed sporting my decidedly not badass pink robe with oversized kisses on it.

I picked up a fussy Fox and began to nurse him, hoping my sadness wasn’t tainting his food. The thought crossed my mind that I might be a shell of myself for the rest of my life. That’s when Fox in all his unsophisticated coordination, swiped his hand across my pink robe – the texture of it captured his attention and he grabbed on. In that moment I fell a little deeper in love. The unconditional kind.

Below the Fold: A Podcast for Female Designers

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I’ve started a bit of an editorial calendar here at & Kathleen. On Mondays I post Coaching for Creatives, on Wednesdays I’ve been posting resources (mostly books up until this point), on Fridays I post about life stuff and being a new mom. I’m feeling super inspired lately so as time permits I’ll be peppering in more posts, about whatever I’m grooving on, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Today is Wednesday and I’ve got a solid resource for you. If you are a female designer you’ve got to listen to Erin Anacker’s new podcast Below The Fold (though, I think men and design enthusiasts would dig it too).

Below the Fold on SoundCloud. 
Below the Fold on iTunes. 

I’ve known Erin for maybe a year … or two?  It started when Erin emailed me asking for an interview for her then magazine for female designers called Glimpse – and what followed was a meaningful connection and new friendship. Since then I’ve been admiring Erin’s generosity in her newsletters and our one-on-one conversations. I’ve watched her business model methodically unfold into something that is going to be a great success, no doubt. Erin gives individuals not only the gift of great advice and profound insights but the gift of her undivided attention – I’ve never met a better listener than Erin. Which makes her the perfect host of a podcast. You can tell that she doesn’t go into her interviews with a script of questions. She follows the story where it’s meant to go – which results in authentic conversation that the listener will glean their own “ah-ha’s” from.

I asked Erin if I could do a quick Q&A with her about her new podcast. But be sure to listen for yourself!

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Kathleen: Can you tell my readers a little bit about your path going from designer to “people enthusiast”? And tell us what you mean by “people enthusiast”.
Erin: Wait, you don’t know what a People Enthusiast does?! (Kidding.) After graduating with a degree in graphic design, working as a web designer, then starting my own design business, I had grown more and more apathetic toward my work. Over a couple years, this apathy turned into full blown misery and I had to make a change. I hired a business coach, Molly Mahar (who’s lovely BTWs), and together we looked for patterns in my life and business. Through that process, I realized, or rather came to accept, something I knew all along: people are my passion, design is my skill.

In August of 2012, I fired all of my clients (if you’re curious, it was invigorating and liberating!) and struck out on this new path as a People Enthusiast. This year and a half hasn’t been easy and the road is a bit more meandering than I’d prefer, but I am more creatively fulfilled than ever before. I’ve been slowly building and implementing each element of my strategic plan and with each step, I am more excited about the possibilities.

My goal from day one has been to develop camaraderie and community amongst women in design. Through a variety of means—group programs, a unique email newsletter, a recently launched podcast, future retreats, digital products, and online courses—I teach, facilitate, and broadcast my knowledge about connection, whether it is with one another or with our users / clients / audience.

Essentially, a People Enthusiast rocks out on building meaningful relationships and this People Enthusiast, is particularly keen on female designers (umm, because we are the shiz).

Kathleen: What made you decide to launch a podcast (vs. blog / video / etc.)? Who are you looking to interview and who are you trying to reach? And of course the big question: WHY?
Erin: Well, I’m terrible at keeping a blog and really didn’t want to deal with dressing for the camera! Surface stuff aside, it was a strategic decision. Blogs are great and video is great too, but I had to think long and hard about my audience.

Where does she hang out? How does she already receive information? What format would resonate with her the most? Which medium aligns with my core philosophy and mission?

After answering those questions, I landed on podcasting and believe that it would deepen the user experience and enrich the lives of my people. There is something special about the sound of someone’s voice. When we put those ear buds in, tap play, and hear someone speaking, it’s personal, intimate, and direct. I might even argue that it is more intimate and accessible than video. There’s less for us to reject (clothes, makeup, wonky hair, etc.) and a more immediate evocative result.

The other thing I thought about was how quickly I could reach my people. I use SoundCloud which is basically a social network for sound. Through SoundCloud and iTunes, I’m immediately plugged into public venues with lots of active users. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to think about spreading the word, but it magnifies my efforts.

Though I don’t suggest that everyone run out and start a podcast—it’s a crapload of work—it was the best way for me to reach and engage with my people and a fun way for them to get to know me better. Through story telling and knowledge sharing, I hope to combat isolation and insecurity.

We are not alone in our struggles when trading creativity for money. Everyone has something of value to offer. You don’t have to be a well known designer with 10k Twitter followers to be worthy of a listening ear.

Both desired listeners and desired interviewees are the same: women in design. Freelancers, business owners, and in-house designers are all welcome and name recognition is not required.

Kathleen: Tell us a little about the name “Below the Fold”.
Erin: So much of what we do is about aesthetics—which comes with the territory—but when many of the resources, groups, events, and media are largely focused on what’s ‘above the fold’, namely our work, we start to loose sight the humans behind the design. I truly believe humans relate to one another, not on the giant successes, amazing clients, or dream projects, but in the struggles along the way. Those moments we slipped up, got fired, paid rent late, moved and felt isolated, or felt like saying, “F this S, I’m out.” These are not unique or individual. The hurdles we must overcome are ubiquitous and collective. In my interviews with women in design, I want to dig deep, learn what makes each woman tick and how she got to be where she is today. I want to share her life, not her work, with the world.

A note from Kathleen: For our non-designer readers, “the fold” is a design term for what you see when you land on a website before you start scrolling down.   

Kathleen: I think you’re a genius at fostering meaningful relationships and creating community. Any advice for creatives who are trying to find their tribe?
Erin: Oh boy! This is a big question and I’ll do my best to answer it succinctly.

First, who are you looking for? Patrons or comrades? Do you need clients or do you need comrades? Second, where do you need / want them? Online? Offline?

Let’s say you’re looking for patrons through an online medium (Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, etc.).
I think it’s easy to get caught up in talking about our craft, which is not to say it isn’t needed. We’ve got to have comrades to lean on, encourage us, and revel in solidarity. However, if you need patrons (read: clients), the nuances of typography probably won’t resonate with non-designers (I’m assuming you’re not designing for designers). Craft content is focused on you rather than on them. Instead, think about what your ideal clients wants to do, be, or feel. What little victories or thoughts or recourses can you provide them to help them get there?

Let’s say you’re looking for comrades in person (local events, groups, retreats / conferences, etc.).
I’m going to tell you something you may not want to hear… You’ve got to put yourself out there. And my dear, lovely, thoughtful introverts, this absolutely does not mean you have to become an extrovert. (Thank gawd—there are enough of us producing hot hair to keep the world spinning a few more centuries.) Putting yourself out there simply means being an intentional initiator. Connection starts with you. Set an attainable goal for yourself to get out there. Attend a design event once a week—and if there aren’t any create one (with as little as two people!). Invite two design friends out to lunch. Go to a workshop once a month. Join a group outside of your field and attend. Seek people out intentionally and individually and you will be amazed how much deeper and more fruitful those connections will be.

If you could take just one thing away, it would be this:

Focus on moments and individuals—these are what build relationships and community. Your tribe will grow, but there are no shortcuts.

(I could seriously go on and on about this topic. If you have more specific questions, I’ll hang out in the comment section below.)

Kathleen: Anything else you’d like to add? How else can my readers engage with you?
Erin: For those seeking camaraderie and resources, I recently created The League of Kind + Kindred, my community of women in design. You can read more about what and why on my website (pixology.is).

I also love conversing on Twitter and am happy to connect on LinkedIn (I know it’s stodgy but I don’t do Facebook). Feel free to email me too. I read and respond to every email I receive; my inbox is always open.

Below the Fold on SoundCloud. 
Below the Fold on iTunes. 

Coaching for Creatives | Thoughts Are Things

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Today’s post is a reminder that everything begins with a thought. Look around you. Your laptop, the vase on your table, your cup of coffee, the Kleenex box on your desk, the art on your walls, and even your relationships … all of it began with an inkling of an idea. Thoughts may feel intangible but the truth is this:

Thoughts are things and they will manifest in your reality.

So, if everything in your life was cultivated from a thought, that means you are responsible for all of it. Good and bad. So take some time to take stock of how your thoughts have come to life around you.

Try this: On a sheet of paper draw three columns. Label them with the following:

1. PAST
Write down three of your most major accomplishments and trace them back to the original thought. Take note of how you were responsible for them manifesting them. Write it down in the far left column. For example, one of my biggest accomplishments was trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp. I had never even been overseas when I saw a documentary about Everest on the Discovery channel and thought “Wow. I’d like to see Mt. Everest!” That seemingly flip desire manifested itself into a life-changing journey. 

2. PRESENT
You have something like 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day. Most of them are recurring. So today I want you to come up with three new thoughts. It can be anything from a goal or resolution, to a relationship you’d like to develop, to a new “what if” question, to something you would like to make or research. Write them down in the middle column. My thought today is not entirely formed yet, but I’m curious to see how being a new mom will blend in with my career – especially as my maternity leave comes to an end. Another thought I have is that as much as I would love to be creative and make things with my hands in my down time my true passion is cooking and fitness. Maybe I will explore being more intentional with those things as my “hobbies”. 

3. FUTURE
I want you to write down the date for exactly one month from today in the future column. Leave this section blank until a month from now. When you return to it I want you to write down how the thoughts you wrote down in the middle column manifested themselves in your life. So for me, I’m going to note in a month from now exactly how that new mom / career blend has manifested itself (it could be anything! From simply a new perspective to maybe a new service or product for working moms.) Or perhaps I’ll have some fun passion projects or experiments rise out of my obsession with health and fitness.

So, today we’re focusing on the manifestation of positive thoughts but consider the less-than-fantastic stuff around you. Take responsibility for it and ask yourself “what thoughts or stories do I tell myself to attract _____.” Sure there are some things that may not be your fault – like getting into a car wreck or falling ill. But try to find responsibility and awareness for the thoughts and reaction around the crummy stuff. Take note of how it shifts your perspective from a reactive victim to perhaps a proactive badass.

I’d love to hear some of your past accomplishments and the originating thought in the comments. Or let me know your new thoughts for today and let’s check back in together in a month to see how they all came to life?

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P.S. If you like this post you might like my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions. It’s 4 emails x 4 weeks (16 emails total) for just $40. Complete with worksheets, exercises, mantras, meditations, and to-dos for time management, decision-making, and strategies for living more of what you love – in work and life. You can learn more about what you’ll get and purchase anytime here.

BraidDIYCoaching_BlogAd

Also, our Braid ECourse, Dream Customer Catching: Embrace Your Expertise and Attract What You Track is now open for registration and will be in-session March 21 – March 30. And Kathleen readers can take this course for $50 by using the discount code ANDKATHLEEN50 when you register.
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40 Days

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The last six weeks have felt a little dark. Probably because I literally spend a lot of time awake in the dark, sitting in the middle of my bed, in the middle of the night, nursing and rocking Fox. Plus, this winter has been especially cold… and dark. Then there was the witching hour business which sent me to an emotionally dark place that I wanted to curl up and hibernate in. But I’m beginning to see the light. Unfortunately, it’s not a flood light coming to the rescue (we still have our days… and nights). No… it’s more like a slow dawn, before the sun makes its debut, where the sky transitions from black to dark navy to a desaturated royal blue and then to a lighter cool blue that perfectly matches my baby’s eyes.

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My friend and Braid Method client Betina Wills of This Land Yoga just launched 40 Days of Intention at her studio (perfect timing for me to pick up my post-baby practice again). In her blog post she shared this Arabic proverb:

 To understand a people you must live among them for 40 days.

When I read this it dawned on me that it took right at 40 days, just under 6 weeks, to start to settle in with Fox. To not only feel like I am just beginning to understand this little baby, but also myself as “mom”. It took 40 dark nights to begin to see the emerging light of day. I don’t necessarily believe I was put on earth to be a mom – but every day since Fox was born it becomes more and more clear that no one belongs here with me more than him.

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I want to thank all of you for all your support on my witching hour post (I’m happy to report that things are much much better). Everyone likes to talk about mommy wars and being criticized for parenting choices but I’m feeling like I have quite the supportive tribe of moms and non-moms alike (here and over on Instagram). I never intended on becoming a “mommy blogger” but because of the tremendous amount of feedback and conversation happening here I’m going to continue to post weekly about becoming a new mom. And honestly, it’s where I’m at right now. I am very much a mom. Next week, my last week of maternity leave, I’ll be posting about childcare choices. I can’t wait to hear what you all have to say.

P.S. The muslin swaddle blanket (that I’m thinking about turning into a wall hanging) by Coveted Things was gifted to me by midwife-turned-coach Rebecca Egbert. Rebecca, a former Braid ECourse student, has been an invaluable resource – if you’re a new mom (or dad) I recommend you sign up for her free newsletter. 

Must Read | Paulo Coelho

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About five or six years ago one of my dear friends gifted me with a copy of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. She said it was a “must read” and that it might change my life. It took me a couple years to finally get around to reading it – but when I finally cracked the spine, it delivered. The Alchemist is a story about a boy searching for treasure. Like any good hero’s journey the boy finds magic, connection, meaning, and the real treasure along the way … As does the reader. The funny thing is is that I didn’t pick up The Alchemist until I was really ready to receive the moral of the story.

I’m typically a fan of non-fiction (let’s get real: self-help) books that will provide me with key takeaways aiding me in both business success and spiritual enlightenment (and now sage parenting advice, of course). But Paulo Coelho manages to craft words together that vibrate at a higher frequency that transcends trendy self-help. His work is timeless and universal to the human experience. And I believe reading his books will make all of us better people.

So just after landing on “warrior” as my word and intention for 2014 I stumbled upon Coelho’s Warrior of the Light: A Manual on my Kindle. I downloaded and devoured it – highlighting almost every word (which kind of defeats the point of highlighting, eh?). I knew I would need a hard copy of this one for daily reference.

Here are some of my favorite passages from the book:

“He is capable of seeing what is beautiful because he carries beauty within himself, for the world is a mirror and gives back to each man the reflection of his own face.” Wow, what a reminder to be accountable for how you show up in the world. This is what karma truly looks like.

“The great victory, which appears so simple today, was the result of a series of small victories that went unnoticed.” A lesson in gratitude – I think this is especially important to remember as a creative entrepreneur.

“In order to have faith in his own path, he does not need to prove that someone else’s path is wrong.” It’s easy to feel challenged when someone else’s business, religion, relationships, world-view isn’t aligned with your own – it can make you feel like you’re going about it all wrong and put you on the defense. What a great reminder that not everyone experiences the world the same – and that that’s okay.

“That is why they are Warriors of the Light. Because they make mistakes, because the ask themselves questions, because they are looking for a reason they are sure to find it.” Amen.

Pretty powerful stuff, if you ask me. I’ve decided that to be accountable to my “warrior” resolution it would be cool to open this book each day in 2014 and reflect on how the passage I land on could inspire or be applicable to my life. I want to truly use it as a manual to carry out my intentions for this year.

What game-changing books are inspiring you lately?